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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fifa president Sepp Blatter's opposition to Qatar bid could throw World Cup 2022 into doubt

One of the many challenges Qatar faces in the next decade could be delivering the 2022 World Cup without the wholehearted support of the Fifa president.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter's opposition to Qatar bid could throw World Cup 2022 into doubt
Backing the bid? Sepp Blatter is believed to have backed the United States bid for the 2022 World Cup, rather than the winning Qatar bid Photo: AP
There is a firm conviction in Qatar, endorsed by close observers of Fifa, that Sepp Blatter did not support their bid, and was among the eight voters who backed the American bid in the final voting last month.
This view runs against the conventional wisdom that Blatter always gets what he wants, and in public at least he has defended the decision as Fifa reaching out to new markets. There is supporting evidence however that he would have preferred anyone but the emirate, even if the secret ballot means we will never know for certain.
The tension evident in Doha last week between Blatter and Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari executive committee member and president of the Asian Football Confederation, certainly fuels the view that Zurich opposed the emirate. The AFC Congress was overshadowed by the political tussle between the two.
Bin Hammam, his position enhanced by Qatar’s victory, declined to rule out challenging Blatter in the presidential election in May, only to see the Fifa president’s preferred candidate, Prince Ali of Jordan, defeat Chung Mong-Joon of South Korea in the election for Asia’s vice-presidency on the Fifa executive committee.
That result suggests Bin Hammam may have more influence over the executive committee than his own confederation, and his insistence that Qatar is planning for a summer World Cup despite Blatter’s prediction of a winter tournament has been interpreted as an attempt to impose his authority.